A project to reroute a major highway on the Iron Range could be delayed by a year or more, after a plan to have the highway span an operating taconite mine was rejected.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced it will reopen the scoping process for the relocation of Highway 53, which runs from Duluth to Virginia and on to International Falls. The department has to move the highway to make way for the expansion of the United Taconite mine in Eveleth.
MnDOT had been studying four alternatives, including an option preferred by many Iron Rangers that would have bridged part of the existing mine. But last month mine operator Cliffs Natural Resources told the department that would not be feasible.
Now MnDOT is considering putting the road along the corridors of existing roads. The department says the additional time needed to analyze the new option could add a year or more to the project schedule. MnDOT had planned to have it completed by May 2017.